Look familiar? Raise your hand if you've ever owned a Magic 8 Ball. It's something that I bet a lot of you have owned at some point in your lives. This is my 2nd one. My first one was a Christmas gift to me from my parents in the 1960's. My sister filched that one from me when I went off to college in the 70's. This is the one I replaced it with soon thereafter.
The Magic 8 Ball is not the first form of divination I used, that honor probably goes to those paper origami fortune tellers we used to make in primary school to learn which boy or girl we'd end up marrying, or whether or not we had cooties. But the Magic 8 Ball was the first slick, mass-produced device I ever owned that validated the premise that the unknown might be revealed if you only asked. The Ouija Board joined my arsenal soon thereafter, and then of course as I became more sophisticated I ultimately chose Tarot as my preferred method of tapping into the unknown. But in those early innocent days, the Magic 8 Ball ruled as a kid friendly, non-threatening device that would answer all my pressing questions.
Born in the late '50s but reared in the '60s, the world was pretty unstable during my impressionable years. My father had orders to serve in Cuba in the battle of the Bay of Pigs before it was determined that no Americans would be sent. That was pretty frightening while it lasted. President Kennedy was assassinated, followed a few years later by his brother. The Vietnam War (though it was only called a 'conflict', was on the evening news every night during dinner. My cousin was killed in Vietnam three weeks before his tour would end. The Civil Rights Movement made us all aware how bad things were for some of us, and Dr King, the man so many of us looked to for the answers, was also murdered. Sharon Tate's murder and the Manson Family freaked everyone the hell out and The Beat-les(s) music made grown-ups crazy while all that hippy drippy free love shenanigans at Woodstock gave the 'establishment' (anyone over thirty) a headache. The world was changing very quickly. The status quo of the old regime was threatened and eventually conquered by rebellious youth. Conflict and uncertainty was the order of the day.
It's no wonder then, that so many of us youngsters from that period of time played with the The Magic 8 Ball. It offered us a little respite, a fun diversion from the rapidly changing world. For a brief twenty or thirty seconds the world's problems were suspended as we anticipated affirmation or denial of our burning and admittedly trivial questions. Funny that I don't recall how often it was accurate. It didn't really matter. It was fun.
Fifty years later, I still have room for its charm in my life. Perhaps both a bit of comforting nostalgia and a nod to the beginning of my life-long tendency to search for the elusive truth in what we perceive as reality.
Though it's limited with only 20 responses that only apply to yes or no non-critical questions, the familiar device is still sometimes just what the doctor ordered to settle burning disputes like, 'It's my husband's turn to clean the toilet, right?'
Anyway, here's to you Magic 8 Ball!